For Market West, the density is in the details

2040 Market Street
Model of new residential development at 2040 Market Street

With the addition of nearly 1,000 high-rise residential units coming online over the next 18 months, the urban landscape of Market Street West is expected to dramatically shift.  Construction on the 2116 Chestnut building is well underway, a 34-story residential tower that will bring over 300 units.  The former AAA building conversion at 21st and Market Street is also progressing nicely and will soon add 275 apartments to the area.  Finally, a 236 unit, 14-story tower is expected to be built at 19th and Arch Streets.  These projects, coupled with the recent success of the nearby 43-story Murano condominium tower prove this part of town is quickly becoming one of the most sought after for residential living in urban Philly.  For urban enthusiasts and developers alike, these projects are very exciting for the future of Center City.

2116 Chestnut Street
2116 Chestnut Street

These developments signify positive progress for Market West for a number of reasons.  Certainly this part of town is in desperate need of more diverse land uses to inject vitality and energy during evening hours and weekends.  But also, high-rise residential living is in short supply compared to its rowhouse counterpart and world class cities like Philly ought to provide a larger variety of living options to attract diverse residents.

But perhaps most importantly, these developments are a step in the right direction for Center City because they signify a more open embrace to higher densities of living.  And if NIMBY attitudes on the Lombard Estates project are any indication of prevailing attitudes towards taller buildings, a paradigm shift is needed if Center City wants to build up and become a more vibrant and interesting version of its current self.   To reach new critical masses of urbanity, a high density of living can best be achieved via high-rises that the rowhouses of Rittenhouse and Society Hill simply can’t provide.

19th and Arch
Model of planned residential tower at 19th and Arch streets

As development pressure increases, auto traffic will no doubt become a larger problem considering the area’s relatively poor transit access.  It would be nice if there was a funding mechanism (eh hem, TIF) to capture portions of tax revenue from new development to put towards building a subway station at 22nd Street and Market.  Such an improvement would allow new developments to decrease parking ratios, encourage new residents to use transit, and thus create a more vibrant sense of place we all want for Market West.

-By Greg Meckstroth for